Koehler an unexpected Major Leaguer

Koehler an unexpected Major Leaguer

SAN FRANCISCO -- Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler beat the odds to become a Major League pitcher.

He was talented enough at New Rochelle High to receive interest from scouts, and that interest carried over to Stony Brook, where he pitched four years and helped lead the Seawolves to a berth in the NCAA tournament his senior season.

What makes Koehler special, however, had more to do with where he was drafted and what college he attended.

The Marlins made him the 538th overall pick of the 2008 Draft, a year that also yielded Brad Hand, Nathan Eovaldi and Dan Jennings. Of the first 110 players selected, 66 reached the Majors, or 60 percent. Of the next 428, which includes Koehler, only 75 made it, or 17.5 percent.

Koehler is one of 19 players from Stony Brook to be drafted, dating to 1973. He's just the second to make his way to the big leagues, following Joe Nathan.

"You don't see guys fade because of skill," Koehler said Friday. "It's about the willingness to put everything into the lifestyle. You have to be able to cope with missing big family events and being on your own."

Koehler was aware of the professional scouts in high school and thought he would get drafted in 2004.

"You always hope, when you're 17 and have guys watching you pitch, to get drafted," Koehler said. "You just never know until you're selected."

He wasn't overly disappointed when he was not selected. Koehler was looking forward to college.

"Getting that opportunity to graduate was important," he said. "Baseball was what I wanted to do, but you have to prepare for life after that."

Circumstances following his junior year at Stony Brook also left him off the Draft board. He remained in contact with several scouts. None of them were with the Marlins, though.

"I never heard from them," Koehler said. "When I got the call, I was excited, but it was also a big surprise."

He spent five years in the Minors honing his craft and never really giving a promotion much thought.

"I want to say I took it year by year just hoping I was making the progress the Marlins wanted me to make," Koehler said. "I just continued to play and never realized how close I was until guys I played with for a year or more were being called up and being successful."

Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.